The US-Taliban agreement – which has been finalized in principle – will be "signed by both sides at the end of February," the deputy leader of the group, Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, said in a recorded 3-minute interview published on a pro-Taliban website, nunn.asia, on Monday.
Hanafi said that the US-Taliban talks – which started late in 2018 and continued for 10 rounds, mostly in the Gulf state of Qatar – have ended and both sides are preparing to sign the agreement.
US government officials and Taliban representatives have announced progress with a reduction in violence plan leading up to a signed peace deal and intra-Afghan negotiations and ultimately an enduring peace in the country.
Sources familiar with the talks said that both sides will discuss a reduction in violence plan ahead of its implementation and then it will be held for seven days. It is also expected that the intra-Afghan negotiations will begin ten days after the US and the Taliban signed the peace agreement.
“The two sides have agreed to sign the agreement by the end of this month,” Hanafi said.
In Kabul, hopes are rising among politicians and the people for progress with a reduction in violence agreement, as Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said on Tuesday that the deal had been "finalized" and it is a “new chapter” for Afghanistan.
“Hopefully, it will be the start of a new chapter for Afghanistan, but it is not the end of the task. It is the beginning, and we welcome it,” Abdullah said.
In Afghanistan’s neighboring Pakistan, a group of Afghan politicians as well as the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, attended a conference on Afghan refugees where the participants, including the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, expressed hopes for peace in Afghanistan and said the people of Afghanistan deserve peace.
“We should all hope that the long-suffering Afghan people finally have peace and we will be doing everything--we are doing everything--to facilitate this process and not only doing everything--we are praying that this peace process moves forward in the right direction,” Khan said.
Also at the event, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed optimism about the future of the agreement on a reduction in violence.
“It is my hope that the discussions will be productive in leading to reduction in violence, especially the violence that harms civilians. And reducing violence is critical to build confidence and support for a peace process that leads to a lasting political settlement and the permanent ceasefire. Such conditions would contribute to enabling the peaceful return of the displaced persons and refugees to their homes,” he said.
Reports indicate that Khalilzad held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as th US envoy is in Islamabad for the refugee conference.